Northeast insurgency
Why in news?
Two groups of the Kuki militants: the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and the United People’s Front
(UPF) have sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to subdue the rising tension
between the Kukis and the Nagas in Manipur. October 17 marked the culmination of a three-year
observation of a centenary since the “Anglo-Kuki War” (1917-1919) in Kangpokpi district of Manipur.
What is the cause of recent tensions?
 In light of the centenary, the Anglo-Kuki War Centenary Commemoration Committee under the
aegis of Kuki Inpi Churachandpur (KIC), which is the apex body of Kuki people in various
northeastern states, asked all Kuki villages to install memorial stones with the inscription, “In
defence of our ancestral land and freedom”, in remembrance of their forefathers who fought
the British during the war.
 But Naga bodies objected to the Kukis installing these stone memorials on the Naga’s ancestral
 The Nagas claimed that the Kukis have been trying to distort history as there has been no
“Anglo-Kuki War” but a “Kuki Rebellion” in 1917.
 The United Naga Council (UNC), the apex body of the Nagas of Manipur, asserted that the term
‘rebellion’ is more appropriate as the Kuki rebellion against the British was for labour
recruitment drive under the Labour Corps Plan.
 Following this, the Nagas conveyed to the state government to take appropriate steps such that
the history of Manipur is not distorted.
What has been the reason for Kuki-Naga clashes in the past?
 After the conclusion of the Anglo-Kuki War in 1919, for administrative and logistical ease, the
state of Manipur was divided into four areas: Imphal, Churachandpur, Tamenglong (that was
inhabited by the Kukis, Kabui Nagas and Katcha Nagas) and Ukhrul (that was inhabited by Kukis
and the Tangkhul Nagas).
 The reorganisation of Manipur is cited to be the most central result of the war.
 The Kuki chiefs who were not used to any bureaucratic control in the earlier now had to
function bureaucratically.
 Furthermore, it is believed that Kukis came to Manipur in the late 18th/early 19th century from
neighbouring Myanmar.
 While some of the Kukis settled next to the Myanmar border, others settled in Naga villages,
which ultimately became a contentious issue between the two tribes.
 The relationship between the two worsened during the colonial period and reached a low point
during the Anglo-Kuki war, referred to as a “dark period” in the oral history of the Tangkhul
Nagas. Essentially, identity and land govern their ethnic conflict.
What was the Anglo-Kuki War?
 Before the British came in, the Kukis had been one of the dominant tribes of hill areas
surrounding Imphal during the rule of the Maharajas of Manipur.
 The Kukis exercised full control over their territory until then.
 Therefore, the Anglo-Kuki War was essentially a war for the independence and liberation of the
Kukis from the imperialists. The war had unified the efforts of Kukis living in northeast India,
Myanmar and Bangladesh.
 Even so, the state of Manipur had already lost its independence to the Britishers in 1891 and
became free only after India became independent in 1947.
 The Anglo-Kuki War began when the Britishers asked the Kukis to get enrolled in their labour
corps in France and the latter resisted.
US-India relations
Why in news?
The ninth India-US Defence Technologies and Trade Initiative (DTTI) group meeting is scheduled to
happen in New Delhi next week.
 In August 2018, the US granted to India the designation of Strategic Trade Authority Tier 1 or
STA-1, “providing India with greater supply-chain efficiency by allowing US companies to export
a greater range of dual-use and high-technology items to India under streamlined processes.”
 This authorisation is the equivalent of NATO allying with Japan, South Korea and Australia.
What is DTTI?
 According to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, DTTI
came about to expedite the scope of cooperation on defence technology that become narrow
due to the presence of differing bureaucratic processes and legal requirements.
 Essentially, DTTI is an initiative to provide “increased US senior level oversight and engagement
to get beyond these obstacles.”
What are its aims?
 While DTTI is not a treaty or law, it is a flexible mechanism to make sure that senior leaders from
both countries are engaged consistently to strengthen the opportunities in the field of defence.
 Its central aims include strengthening India’s defence industrial base, exploring new areas of
technological development and expanding U.S.-India business ties.
 India’s defence industry was in a growing stage and that India was looking to acquire niche
technology in manufacturing defence weapons and equipment.
Brexit deal: An analysis
For the first time in 37 years, the British Parliament convened on a Saturday so that Members of
Parliament (MPs) could cast their votes on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal that was
scheduled to take United Kingdom out of the European Union (EU) by October 31.
But instead of coming to a decision on Brexit, Independent MP Oliver Letwin, who is a former member
of Johnson’s Conservative Party, brought about an amendment that has effectively delayed a vote on
Brexit, until the House of Commons passes required legislation to execute it properly. Lawmakers
passed this amendment on Saturday by a vote of 322 to 306.
A referendum, Article 50 and more background
 The first public vote or a referendum on Brexit happened three years ago on June 23, 2016
when David Cameron was prime minister.
 Through this referendum the voters chose to leave the EU and Cameron resigned the next day,
succeeded by Theresa May.
 About 52 per cent of the voters chose to leave the EU, while 48 per cent voted to stay. Even
though the referendum was not legally binding, it was carried out to know the sentiment of the
public towards Brexit.
 Originally, Brexit was scheduled to happen on March 29, 2019, two years after then Prime
Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50.
 This article mentions the legal mechanism through which a member state can exit from the EU
and was agreed upon by all member states of the EU under the Lisbon Treaty signed in 2009.
 Triggering Article 50 means the formal decision of the government of that member state to
 The prime minister alone can take the decision to trigger this article in accordance with the
“royal prerogative” over foreign affairs.
 For instance, in the case of Brexit, only the UK government can trigger Article 50 after which the
prime minister is required to notify the European Union about it.
What happens once a deal is agreed upon?
 Once a deal has been agreed upon between the UK and EU, it needs to be approved by the
House of Commons, which has not happened till now.
 Britain’s opposition Labour Party is determined to reject the withdrawal agreement. Recently,
the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, whose support is essential for Johnson to get an
approval, said they don’t support the deal “as it stands”.
 Significantly, post-Brexit, the EU wants to enforce its standard customs procedure.
 Therefore, there is a conflict of interest between what the EU wants to happen with the border
post-Brexit, and what the Irish want.
 The EU won’t back a deal that is too lenient on the borders and the DUP won’t approve a deal
that enforces a hard border.
 The Brexit agreement that the Parliament was supposed to decide on Saturday was a revised
Brexit deal agreed upon by the UK and EU on Thursday in Brussels during a two-day EU Summit.
 According to the terms of this withdrawal agreement, while Northern Ireland would continue to
be a part of the UK, it would also be governed by some European regulations complete with a
customs check between the UK and Northern Ireland.
What next?
 It is up to the EU to grant the extension. But if extended it will also delay the European
Parliament’s agreement to the deal, which was scheduled for next week.
 The European parliament can ratify the deal only after it has been passed by the House of
 According to/The Guardian/, it is possible for November 30 to be the new Brexit day, provided
the deal has been passed by the House of Commons by then.
 Without any decision on Brexit in sight, the outcomes are multiple, it is possible that the UK
takes a no-deal exit from the EU, which means if and when Brexit happens, there would be no
terms determining the relationship between UK and EU affecting trade, transport and border
Transmission of REPO rate:
Why in news?
Since February, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has aggressively cut the repo rate. This is the interest
rate that the RBI charges the banks when it lends them money.
What does it mean?
 By cutting the repo rate, the RBI has been sending a signal to the rest of the banking system that
the lending rates in the system – the interest rates that banks charge from you and me when we
take a loan – should come down.
 This process of repo rate cuts leading to interest rate cuts across the banking system is called
“monetary policy transmission”.
 The trouble is, in India, this process is rather inefficient. For example, between February and
August, the RBI cut repo rate by 110 basis points — 100 basis points make a percentage point —
from 6.5% to 5.4%.
 But, the interest rate charged by banks on fresh loans that they extended during this period fell
by just 29 basis points – that is just 27% of the amount by which the repo rate came down.
Why does RBI want lower interest rates?
 Since February, India's economic growth momentum has rapidly decelerated. Projections of
GDP growth rate have come down from roughly 7.2%-7.5% in February to 5.8%-6.0%.
 There are two key problems in the economy and a lower interest rate regime is expected to help
in resolving both.
 The main issue is that people are not consuming at a high enough rate. On paper, the argument
is that if banks reduce their lending rates, they would also have to reduce their deposit rates
(the interest rate banks pay when we park our money with them in a savings bank deposits or a
fixed deposit).
 This, in turn, will incentivise people to save less and spend more.
 The other problem in the economy at present is that businesses are not investing in existing or
new facilities.
 Part of the reason is that they have unsold inventories because people are not buying as much;
as such, they argue, what is the point of borrowing money and investing.
 But part of the reason is also that the interest rate charged on loans is quite high. If banks
reduce the interest rates on loans, more businesses are likely to be enthused to borrow new
loans for investment.
 This is particularly so as the government has recently cut corporate tax rates in the hope that it
will boost the corporate sector's profitability and get it thinking of investing more.
 So, no matter which way one looks at it, RBI's decision to cut repo rates was a justified move,
especially since overall retail inflation has been well within the RBI's comfort zone of 4%.
So, why aren't interest rates coming down?
 Because repo rates have little impact on a bank's overall cost of funds, and reducing lending
rates just because the repo has been cut is not feasible for banks.
 Here's why. For any bank to be viable, there must be a clear difference between the interest
rate it charges from borrowers on loans it provides and the interest rate it gives to consumers
on deposits it accepts.
 The difference between these two sets of interest rates has to be not only positive but also big
enough for the bank to make profits.
 To attract deposits, banks pay a high deposit rate.
 Such deposits make up almost 80% of all banks' funds from which they then lend to borrowers.
Banks borrow a minuscule fraction under the repo.
 So even sharply reducing the repo rate doesn't change the overall cost of funds. Unless banks
reduce their deposit rates, they will not be able to reduce their lending rates.
Why are banks not reducing their deposit rates?
 That's because if a bank were to reduce its deposit rates, depositors would shift to a rival bank
that pays better interest rates or park more and more of their savings in small saving
instruments such as public provident fund, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana etc that pay much higher
interest rates.
 There is another aspect.
 Even if banks wanted to reduce their deposit rates, they can't always reduce them immediately.
Miren Lodha, Director, CRISIL Research, said 65% of total deposits are “term” deposits (fixed for
a certain duration) and take, on an average, up to two years to get repriced at fresh rates.
“Therefore, banks generally go slow on reducing the interest rates on advances as deposits take
longer to get repriced.”
But why are interest rates going up on existing loans?
 This, too, has to do with the banks trying to manage their finances.
 If they are under pressure to reduce the interest rate they charge on new loans, then one of the
things they could do is to push up the interest rates on old loans that allow for such flexibility.
 It also has to do with the financial health of a bank; weaker banks would be forced to raise rates
to cover for past losses, explained Suvodeep Rakshit of Kotak Institutional Equities.
What hasn't linking the lending rate to the repo rate worked?
 Because it is not a viable solution.
 The banks cannot link their lending to the repo rate because repo doesn't determine their cost
of funds.
 For a repo-linked regime to work, the whole banking system would have to shift to that – in
other words, along with banks' lending rates, their deposit rates too must go up and down with
the repo.
 But if such a regime were in place, depositors would have earned 1.10 percentage points less
interest rate on their savings account.
Is this problem of weak transmission new?
 No, it is not. Rakshit of Kotak Institutional Equities said that at no time in the past has monetary
transmission been better than 50% (that is, only half the rate cuts by RBI were passed through
by the banking system).
 The reason for weak transmission, too, has been largely the same.
Why doesn't this happen in developed countries?
 That's because the financial system is far more developed and diversified.b
 Most importantly, the banking system there doesn't have to bear the burden of providing loans
to everyone in the economy – from a small personal loan to buy a refrigerator to large business
loan to set up a factory.
 Most demands for big loans are directed towards the corporate bond market – wherein a
company floats bonds (or IOUs) and borrows money from the public by paying whatever interest
rate the market demands.
 Moreover, depositors are not in the habit of getting a fixed interest rate on their savings while
expecting a variable interest rate on their loans.
 At the current low levels of per capita income, the savers are far more risk-averse in India and
unwilling to invest in higher-risk instruments other than bank deposits.
 Lastly, the overall borrowing by the public sector – that is the government and governmentowned institutions – is not so high so as to drive up the interest rates in the economy as it
happens in India.
Lithium-ion batteries
Why in news?
Lithium-ion batteries are vulnerable to fire and explosion, which often happens without warning. This is
because they are built with flammable and combustible materials.
Now, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has developed a Lithium-ion battery that will not
catch fire, Johns Hopkins University has announced.
How it works?
 The team has announced the discovery of a new class of "water-in-salt" and "water-in-bisalt"
electrolytes—referred to as WiS and WiBS, respectively.
 The University news release said that this new class of electrolytes, when incorporated in a
polymer matrix, reduces water activity and elevates the battery's energy capabilities and life
cycle while ridding it of the flammable, toxic, and highly reactive solvents present in current Liion batteries.
 It's a safe, powerful alternative, the researchers say.
Why it matters?
 Li-ion batteries have emerged as the energy storage vehicle of choice for portable electronics,
electric vehicles, and grid storage.
 These safety advancements, the university release, mark a significant step forward in
transforming the way Li-ion batteries are manufactured and used in electronic devices.
 "Li-ion batteries are already a constant presence in our daily lives, from our phones to our cars,
and continuing to improve their safety is paramount to further advancing energy storage
 "Li-ion battery form factors have not changed much since their commercialization in the early
1990s; we still use the same cylindrical or prismatic cell types.
 The liquid electrolyte and required hermetic packaging have a lot to do with that.”
Tasmanian Tiger
Why in news?
The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine (a dog headed pouched dog) was an exclusively carnivorous marsupial
that is considered to be extinct. The last known thylacine died in captivity over 80 years ago, in
Tasmania’s Hobart Zoo in 1936. It may also be the only mammal to have become extinct in Tasmania
since the European settlement.
Recent events
 Interest in the marsupial was regenerated this week, when Tasmania’s Department of Primary
Industries, Parks, Water and Environment released a document that mentions sightings of the
animals from September 2016 to September 19, 2019.
 The distinguishing features that stood out were the dark bands on its back running from the
spine down across to its underbelly.b
 most recent record is from August 15 and consists of over eight such records in the three years.
 The thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian Wolf bears some resemblance to a dog, with its
distinguishing features being the dark stripes beginning at the rear of its body and extending
into its tail, its stiff tail and abdominal pouch.
Have there been other sightings?
 According to the Australian government’s Department of Environment and Energy, hundreds of
sightings of the animal have been reported since 1936 and many of them have been
 However, through a detailed study of the sightings carried out between 1934 - 1980, it was
concluded that out of the roughly 320 sightings, just under half could be considered “good
 Even so, all sightings till now have been inconclusive.
 Since the last known thylacine died in 1936, various expeditions have been carried out to search
for it, beginning 1937 and culminating in 1993.
Why did they become extinct?
 According to the Australian Museum, the thylacine was widespread over continental Australia,
extending North to New Guinea and south to Tasmania.
 It was confined to Tasmania in recent times and disappeared from mainland Australia over 2000
years ago, mainly because of over-hunting by humans, diseases and competition from the Dingo
(Canis lupus), a wild dog native to Australia.
 The Thylacine was also persecuted because it was believed to be a threat to sheep and in its
latter years it was hunted for the purposes of collection by museums and zoos.
 As per some accounts, the introduction of sheep in 1824 led to a conflict between the settlers
and thylacine.
Orionids meteor showers
Why in news?
The Orionids meteor showers will make their yearly appearance this and the next weekend, reaching
their peak on October 22.
These meteor showers are known for their brightness and speed, travelling at about 66 km/s into the
Earth’s atmosphere.
About the meteor shower
 According to NASA, over 30 meteor showers occur annually and are observable from the Earth.
 They are named after the constellation they appear to be coming from. Orionids meteor shower
is believed to originate from the constellation Orion The Hunter.
 This point of origination is referred to as the radiant.
 Even so, this does not mean that the meteor showers originate from a particular constellation,
but the name is given only for the purposes of identification.
 The Orionids meteor shower is not the only one that occurs annually.
 For instance, the Perseid meteor shower occurs every year in August and was first observed
over 2000 years ago.
 Other meteor showers include Quadrantis, that happen between December-January, Lyrids in
April, Leonids in November and Geminids in December.
What are meteor showers?
 Meteors are bits of rock and ice that are ejected from comets as they manoeuvre around their
orbits around the sun. The Orionids meteors emerge from the comet 1P/Halley.
 Meteor showers, on the other hand, are witnessed when Earth passes through the trail of debris
left by a comet or an asteroid.
 When a meteor reaches the Earth, it is called a meteorite and a series of meteorites when
encountered at once, is termed as a meteor shower.
 As it falls towards the Earth, the resistance makes the space rock extremely hot and as the
meteorite passes through the atmosphere, it leaves behind a streak of hot glowing gas that is
visible to the observers and not the rock itself.
Why do meteor showers happen on an annual basis?
 Like the Earth orbits around the Sun, comets orbit around it as well.
 Although they may not be as circular as Earth but maybe lop-sided.
 Therefore, when comets come closer to the Sun, their icy parts melt and break off, forming the
debris that the Earth may encounter around the same time every year as it makes way around
its own orbit.
 In the case of the Orionids, each time the Halley comet, that takes 76 years to orbit around the
Sun, reaches the inner solar system (comprising the terrestrial planets and asteroids), the icy
and rocky dust is released into space.
 Parts of this debris become Eta Aquarids in May if they collide with the Earth’s atmosphere.
Where is it observable from?
 NASA describes the Orionids meteor shower as the “most beautiful showers of the year.”
 When meteorites travel as fast as the Orionids showers do, they leave behind a trail of hot gas
and sometimes burn, becoming “fireballs”, which means they become brighter than the planet
Venus and therefore, may be visible for several seconds to a minute.
 The Orionids meteor shower is visible from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres after
 In order to view meteor showers, an area away from the city and street lights need to be sought.
 “Lie flat on your back with your feet facing southeast if you are in the Northern Hemisphere or
northeast if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, and look up, taking in as much of the sky as
possible. In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see
meteors,” says NASA.
India lies in the northeastern hemisphere.

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